When the Carolina Hurricanes announced they’d hired Kirk Muller to replace former head coach Paul Maurice, it raised a few eyebrows. This is the same organization, after all, that always tended to keep things in house and seemed to favor familiarity above all else. Maurice was in his second go-round as head coach and GM Jim Rutherford has made a habit of reacquiring old ‘Canes — Erik Cole, Cory Stillman, Aaron Ward and Joe Corvo have all done two tours of duty in Carolina.
In this light, hiring Muller is like hiring a virtual stranger.
Or is it?
Turns out Captain Kirk has more ties to the franchise than you’d think:
— Brandon Sutter played for Canada at the U-18 World Championships in 2006. Muller was the team’s assistant coach.
— Muller and assistant coach Dave Lewis were teammates in New Jersey from 1984-86.
— Muller and Director of Hockey Operations Ron Francis played together for Team Canada at the 1985 IIHF World Championship.
— Muller and assistant coach Rod Brind’Amour were teammates on the 1992 Wales Conference All-Star team.
Okay, so Muller’s not exactly Mr. Hurricane (in fact, he’s one of the few coaches/development people on staff that didn’t play for Carolina), but perhaps that’s a good thing. The ‘Canes have been stuck in retread mode ever since winning the Stanley Cup in 2006 and needed to breathe some new life into the organization.
Muller, one of the hottest coaching prospects on the market, is a coup for Rutherford and company. He also brings a seasoned NHL playing resume to the job, something previous ‘Canes coaches lacked. Maurice never made the NHL as a player while Peter Laviolette only saw action in 12 big league contests.